Senate highway bill moves out of committee

June 16, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s version of a highway bill is moving forward.

The committee’s bipartisan Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 was approved 25-3 during a markup hearing on Wednesday, June 16. Next, the bill moves to the full Senate floor.

For truckers, the most important aspects of the Senate highway bill may be what’s not included. Unlike the INVEST in America Act in the House, the Senate bill does not have any measures to increase motor carriers’ minimum insurance requirement. It also does not include a screening mandate for obstructive sleep apnea.

OOIDA reaction

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association actively opposes the House T&I highway bill that was approved by the committee last week. OOIDA called the House version an “anti-trucker disgrace” and noted all of the things the Senate version left out, including restrictions on personal conveyance and the expansion of FMCSA’s use of ELD data.

“This bill isn’t perfect, but we did a good job keeping out some of the most harmful provisions that were being promoted in the Senate,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “In the end, I think truckers can look at this legislation as a much, much better bill than what the House has produced.”

As for the negatives, OOIDA opposes measures in the bill that call for automatic emergency braking mandate, as well as language involving side underride guards.

In addition, the committee passed an amendment on June 16 that will create an under-21 pilot program for the operation of commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. Instead of including the full language of the DRIVE-Safe Act, the measure authorizes a three-year pilot program for 18-20-year-old drivers and authorizes the Transportation Research Board to study the effect driver compensation has on safety and retention.

“While we remain staunchly opposed to allowing 18, 19, and 20 year-olds to enter the long-haul industry, the outcome of today’s markup could have been much worse,” Long said. “Careful negotiations among stakeholders and Senators resulted in a three-year pilot program for teen drivers rather than the opening of Pandora’s box that would have happened with the inclusion of the DRIVE-Safe Act. We’re also pleased the committee was able to enhance some provisions related to trainers. And, frankly, the inclusion of the compensation study is great for drivers.”

OOIDA’s “Live From Exit 24” discussed the differences between the House and Senate highway bills in its latest episode.

A House floor vote on the INVEST in America Act is expected in the coming weeks.

The current surface reauthorization bill expires at the end of September. LL

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.